Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Goofin' on Ben and Moe and Lee

I was at the lake today talking about where the weight is at various points in the swing.

Here's a link to the Youtube video http://ca.youtube.com/watch?v=nH0XBJutrcU

and below is some goofin' around making swings like a few of my favorite golfers Hogan and Moe and Trevino. It was freezing and I just wanted to make the best of it and have some fun.


video

Monday, November 24, 2008

Bobby Jones

You know some things just speak for themselves. We will be talking about Jones in future Blogs, but for now here's a fantastic video of the great Bobby Jones winner of the 1930 GrandSlam




Robert Tyre "Bobby" Jones Jr. (March 17, 1902 – December 18, 1971) was one of the greatest golfers to ever compete. Jones skills took him to golf's summit in the days when amateur golf was respected and held in much higher esteem than the professional game. (I will be talking of Walter Hagen in America and of Henry Cotton in Britain and their importance to the transformation of public attitude towards the professional game in future Blogs)Jones succeeded on both a national and international level winning championships on both sides of the pond.


With the exception of the later period of his career when he was making instructional films Jones participated only as an amateur, primarily on a part-time basis, and chose to retire from competition at age 28.


For for now enjoy the greatness that was Bobby Jones.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

The Man on the Ryder Cup - Abe Mitchell

I found a great article about Abe Mitchell at the website for Royal Ashdown Forest Golf Club in East Sussex. It is one of the Top 100 golf courses in the British Isles acording to Golf World. Here’s a link to the club’s website: http://www.royalashdown.co.uk/

Who’s Abe Mitchell?!?!

Well, he’s that little guy on the top of the Ryder Cup. Abe Mitchell was also the longest hitter of his era and probably the finest golfer to never win the British Open although in my opinion that line would be finely drawn between him and Dai Rees who we will talk about another time.

Abe Mitchell was also one of the finest teachers of his time, teaching Samuel Ryder himself.

You Can download a pdf copy of Roger Porter’s article Abe Mitchell – the Man on the Ryder Cup here: http://www.royalashdown.co.uk/downloads/abe.pdf

There is also a great photo sequence of good old Abe at The Society if Hickory Golfers that you can actually click a button to animate here: http://www.hickorygolfers.com/swings/abemitchell/amswing.htm

Here is one of the shots from that sequence.

And you thought Sam Snead invented The Squat. Shame on you. Just look at Abe. No wonder he bombed it!!!
I will talk some more very soon about Abe Mitchell and his incredible insights into all things golf.
You know when you start to study all of this you will find that it was all pretty much figured out about 5 minutes after golf was invented.
Jerry Starks turned me on to Abe. He uses an image from Abe Mitchell's wonderful book Down To Scratch as his Avatar at Golfwrx. Thanks Jerry.

How To Play Your Best Golf All The Time

To the side is my dog eared copy of Tommy Armour’s fantastic book How to Play Your Best Golf All The Time. I did a Blogpost about Tommy Armour in October and said I would say more about him in future. Well here it is.

The brilliance of this book is Armour’s straight-forwardness (is that a word?) and his simplicity. The sort of simplicity that you will only find coming from a very confident and capable instructor and Armour surely was this and more. In his day he was one of the most sought out instructors in the world, charging also some of the highest fees imaginable at the time, but Armour could deliver the goods.

The first time I read the book many years ago I was astounded at what a stiking resemblance between some of the address position images advocated by Armour and Fred Couples.

Here's images I dug up of Armour and Couples for reference: Spooky!

About the only thing that I question in Armour’s book is the chapter called “The Pause That Means Good Timing” which goes against my idea that the transition can be automated and in a properly sequenced swing will simply trigger itself. His chapters “the Grip Holds The Swing Together” and “Footwork, The Foundation of Best Golf”, however, are must reads.

Chapter 1 is called “Why This Book Is as Short and Simple as It Is”. What could be better than that?!?!


First published in 1953 the book is still in print. You can pick it up at most bookstores or online at Amazon.com. Oh, and this is a link to previous Blog on Tommy Armour: http://sevam1.blogspot.com/2008_10_01_archive.html

Monday, November 17, 2008

Ed Furgol - 1954 US Open Champion

Not a lot of people have heard of Ed Furgol but you know Ben Hogan wasn't the only guy ever to overcome an injury to win the US Open. Ed Furgol overcame his own injury to become a 6 time winner on the PGA Tour in the 1950's including the 1954 US Open. At age 37 he won the US Open at Balturol by 4 shots over Gene Littler. The Open that year was the first nationally televised Open and tournament organizers were no doubt hoping for a household name like Snead or Hogan to factor in on the Championship, but at the finish line it was Furgol.

Ed Furgol is interesting for a number of reasons, but mainly because he played with a crooked left arm due to a severe elbow injury he suffered in a playground mishap at age 12. The injured elbow left him unable to fully extend his lead arm. In spite of the this Furgol wanted to play golf. He created his own special excercise regimen to develope his hand strength and worked tirelessly to develop a swing that would overcome his lack of power. By 1954 he did indeed have the ncecessary power and a swing solid enough to work on the PGATour. I guess we could have all taken a lesson in perseverence from Ed Fugol. He died in 1997 at age 79.

Ed Furgol - US Open Champion

I found a great reference resource fo you all to check out. The USGA Musem's Hall of Champions. You can visit it here: http://www.usgamuseum.com/champions/

You can select by chamionship and year and it will give you a snapshot of what happened. I have found it to be a great resource.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Stalking Hogan - Those Crazy Canucks Are Always Up To Something

It is pretty widely known that in the 1950's and 60's Ben Hogan used to prep for the Masters at Seminole in North Palm Beach, Florida. His good friend Claude Harmon was the pro there in the winter back in those days. Anyway it appears that back in the early sixties a 4-some of young Canadian pros and admitted Hogan junkies and Tour wannabe's including Irv Lightstone (one of Moe Norman's 1950's travelling buddies) and George Knudson (pictured here) took to hanging out in the bushes at Seminole to catch a glimpse of Hogan's practice sessions.

On day one they got kicked off of the premises by security. Same thing on day two. On day three those pesky and persistant Canucks try it again and damned if Hogan doesn't pull that security guard aside and say to him ....... "Let 'em watch."


By then Hogan was probably aware of who the groupies were. You see Seminole assistant Dave Marr had met the Canadian contingent earlier at a tournament and had screwed up and spilled the beans about where Hogan was practicing. But that bit doesn't matter. What matters is that Hogan must have respected their persistance and hearing who they were and that they were aspiring (read struggling) pro's just like he was once he threw them a bone. Knudson and pals watched Hogan hit balls for two more hours. Satisfied and grateful for the gesture they did not return and peace and tranquility once again returned to the bushes 'round Seminole.


Not long after that, Knudson was on tour himself observing and hitting balls on the same ranges as his idol Ben Hogan. There is a profile page on George Knudson at the Manitoba Sports Hall of Fame.

Here's a link: http://www.halloffame.mb.ca/honoured/1988/gKnudson.htm


And here's a link from Fairways Magazine to the article Irv Lightstone wrote about their Hogan encounter: http://www.fairwaysgolf.ca/article.php?id=95

Monday, November 10, 2008

The Best Damned Swing in the History of Golf

Who had the best swing in the history of golf?

Well if you had asked Ben Hogan he’d have looked you right square in the eye just to make absolutely sure that you were paying attention and he would have said…. Mickey Wright!!!

Who’s Mickey Wright?

Have a look!



Mickey Wright won 82 times on the LPGA Tour (second only to Kathy Witworth). She won 13 Majors! After age 34 she played, but was basically semi-retired due to problems with her feet so that is one hell of a record.

You can check out here profile at the World Golf Hall of Fame :
http://www.wgv.com/hof/member.php?member=1124

I’ll be talking about her more later because she wrote a great golf book and some pretty cool stuff in Sports Illustrated also.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Sam Snead vs. Ben Hogan

You know in many ways I have always felt sorry for Sam Snead. So great and such an incredible swing to boot. The Slammer won all of those tournaments (82 PGA Tour events and 70 other tournaments worldwide), but never won the US Open. He came 2nd in the first Open he ever played in in 1937. In 1939 he had his best opportunity ever needing only a par on a relatively benign par 5 18th hole. Snead instead, believing he would need birdie to win, pressed and made 8 thus solidifying perhaps the cruellest of his many painful US Open defeats. He finished 2nd a record 4 times in the US Open. There is a great article by Herbert Warren Wind written in 1956 that you can find in the SI Vault where the picture above came from. Check it out if you want at this link and click on the little "View This Issue" tab when you get there to see something really cool.:
http://vault.sportsillustrated.cnn.com/vault/article/magazine/MAG1069776/index.htm


Now in contrast Ben Hogan won 4 US Opens (5 if you're Dan Jenkins and want to count the 1942 Hale America Open) and as such Hogan is remembered in a completely different light than Snead. But you know it is a funny thing. Hogan never did all that well head to head against Snead in playoffs. In fact Snead had a 4-0 record against Hogan in playoffs including a playoff victory over Hogan for the 1954 Masters. But little if any film exists of these matches where Snead was the victor. And so the cruelty against the Snead legacy continues with Shell’s Wonderful World of Golf’s match between Snead and Hogan at the Houston Country Club which aired in February of 1965. You see, as I mentioned above we have little permanent record of Snead’s dominance of Hogan in playoffs on film. Instead we have this match in which Hogan drubs Snead with a flawless (apart from the putting) 69. Hogan hit every fairway and every green in regulation. Gene Sarazen commented that it was the finest round of golf he’d ever seen. Hogan’s only bogey was a three putt. Snead kept it close until the last with an impressive short game display, but it is Hogan’s perfection that is preserved on this film. This video is a must own for anyone who wants to study Hogan in action as he dismantles a long wet difficult golfcourse with careful planning and precision shotmaking. This video is where a lot of the color footage of Hogan on YouTube like this one below originates. I have had it on VHS for years, but you can now get the match on DVD (see amazon.com link below).





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Friday, November 7, 2008

Don't Ever Change

It was back in the mid-1950's when Moe Norman's talent first became a topic of conversation. There was no doubt about it the Kitchener kid could play golf.
Loads of stories abound about Moe. Not all, but most are suprisingly true.

Here's one. It's recounted in Tim O'Connors Moe biography The Feeling of Greatness - The Moe Norman Story. The book is available direct from Tim O'Connor's site for $19.95 Canadian. Here's a link:
http://www.oconnorgolf.ca . You can also buy it at the Amazon.com. Link Below

In 1955 Moe was part of the Canadian contingent in the Amerca's Cup Amateur Championship. Moe faced Bill Campbell one of the strongest players on the US squad that year. If you don't know who Bill Campbell is, he is a career amateur and winner of more than 30 major Amateur events in the US including the US Amateur in 1964 and two US Senior Amateur titles in 1979 and 1980. He was also a two time President of the USGA. Here is a link to his profile at the World Golf Hall of Fame - http://www.wgv.com/hof/member.php?member=1030

Anyway, the story goes that the talented and unflappable Campbell had his match well in hand by the time they reached the 34th hole of their match. You see Campbell was 1 up and had whipped his tee shot on the 146 yard par three 16th to under 2 feet. Winning the hole would put Campbell 2 up with 2 to play. Campbell remarked at that point that this would be a hard hole to win. Ahhh but he was playing Moe Norman. In Moe's words "I hit an eight iron. It went four feet past the cup and came back to drop. That squared the match." A hole in one. When they reached the green Moe turned to Campbell and said "I'll give you that one" As one reporter wrote "The unflappable Campbell was flapped." Moe went on to win the match.

Of Moe, Campbell remarked in a speech later that day "He is a very, very fine player, both mechanically and instinctively. He is potentially one of the greatest players of our time. His hand action is the finest of any player I have ever seen."

Which leads to a conversation between Moe and Sam Snead at the 1956 Masters. Moe was on the practice tee and Snead came over to watch. Moe was hitting long irons. Snead's advice was to swing those long irons as if they were fairway woods and sweep those long iron shots off of the ground. Fine advice Moe thought and he then hit 800 balls wore his hands into a mass of blisters and then withdrew from the Masters the following day after 9 agonizing holes. His playing partner Vic Ghezzi and also the Tournament brass were not impressed.

What were Snead's parting words to Moe? "Son, you've got the best pair of hands I've ever seen on a golf stick. Don't Ever Change."

But he did change in the mid-nineties and that is the grip and hand action that we have come to know from all of the modern videos of Moe. That was not the grip he used the day he played with me.

Here's an Amazon.com link to Tim O'Connor's fine book .

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Who The Hell Is Sam Byrd ?!?

As just about everyone knows Bobby Jones was a pretty fair golfer. He had a beautiful golfswing and was one of the finest ballstrikers of his era. He was also a fine judge of what constituted good golf and what fine ballstriking was. So it should be no surprise to anyone that when asked who the best ballstriker on the PGA Tour was Bobby Jones replied…..Sam Byrd.

WHAT?!?! Say that again.

SAM BYRD!

Who the hell is Sam Byrd?

OK here is who Sam Byrd was. Sam Byrd played professional baseball for the New York Yankees. Yep Sam Byrd was a Bronx Bomber. He was known to many as “Ruth’s Legs” because he often did Ruth’s running late in games at the tail end of The Babe’s career. Anyway he played pro ball for the Yankees and the Reds from 1929 until 1936 when he retired from pro ball and turned his attention to playing professional golf. Today Sam Byrd is little more than a footnote but if you check the record book you will find that Sam’s the guy who came in 2nd 5 times to Byron Nelson during that famous run in 1945. Sam won 6 PGA Tour Events and 5 other tournaments of note between 1939 and 1945. He lost the 1945 PGA Championship to Nelson 4&3 in the final. So it goes without saying that Sam Byrd was a damned fine player.

The 1945 PGA Championship is interesting, however, because it was after this event that a shy and standoffish and even at that time somewhat reclusive Ben Hogan struck up a conversation with one Sam Byrd. The topic. You guessed it “The best way to hit a golfball.”

What struck Hogan was the simplicity with which Byrd articulated the details of the golfswing. For the next 20 years or so Ben Hogan and Sam Byrd maintained a friendship carried out mainly by phone. I have it on pretty good authority that Mr. Hogan phoned Sam Byrd fairly regularly, mind you not just to talk golf. They were friends. So what was it that Sam Byrd told Ben Hogan in 1945?

Oh come on. You didn’t think I’d just come right out and tell you, did you? We’ll talk some more about Mr. Byrd very soon.

In the mean time enjoy the slo-mo of his swing below.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Ben Hogan - The Coleman Video

The Coleman Video – Ben Hogan 1977

In 1977, at age 65, Ben Hogan made one final trip to Florida to enjoy time with his good friend George Coleman and to play a little bit of golf at Seminole where for many years he had loved to practice in the winter months leading up to the Masters. George Coleman had a home on the water and, according to James Dodson’s biography Ben Hogan: An American Life
, Coleman and Hogan often hit balls into the ocean from that backyard. At the time of what appears to be Hogans’ last trip to Seminole Coleman had just purchased a new video camera and wanted to test it out. This led to one of the most important pieces of film ever made of Ben Hogan – The Coleman Video. Magnum184 on the Golfwrx Thread pointed out to me that you can actually see the balls land if you pay attention.

The first time I viewed this film it was for me a strange and profoundly emotional event. Here was Hogan interacting with his friends, showing them details about his technique and still swinging the club beautifully at that age. He’s even wearing George Coleman’s golf shoes. It is so pure and magical. If you are not moved by it you need to learn more about Ben Hogan, about friendship and about golf.

In the slow motion sequences that Hogan demonstrates, (what had been demonstrated in past Hogan clinics as The Concentration Drill) we see Hogan illustrating what he felt during the swing as opposed to what he actually did. This demonstration is so important because it shows how clearly Hogan understood that no matter what action he performed with the body the hands could always keep up.

Watching the video we feel guilty and we should because it is clear that this demonstration is meant solely for the eyes of his friends. When Dawn Coleman became aware of the video making it onto the Internet she said “ I’m so glad both George and Ben were gone by then. Ben would have been heartbroken to know strangers were looking at that.” The affection between Hogan and his friends is so pure. I have thought long about it and I have decided with still some reservation to reference this video here, for a few reasons. First because rightly or wrongly it is now out there and as they say “You cannot unring a bell”. Second because there is so much to learn from it about golf and more importantly about life and respect and affection among friends. When the woman (Mrs. Coleman I would guess) says “Oh Ben” as he finishes the concentration drill it is so clear what great friends these people are and that were it not for that friendship and trust between them this last glimpse of Hogan and his “swing eternal” would never have existed. It also shows us a part of Hogan and his generous nature that we otherwise would never have seen. Enjoy and understand what a kind and generous man Mr. Hogan was.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Kel Nagle - 1960 Giant Killer

In 1930 Bobby Jones won what has become know as the Grand Slam, the British Open, British Amateur, US Open and US Amateur in the same year. Hogan's 1953 campaign with wins at the Masters, British and US Open's is in my opinion the finest year anyone has had in golf. Byron Nelson's 11 Tournaments in a row in 45 wasn't bad either, but 1960 very nearly went down as the greatest of all were it not for 1960 British Open Champion Kel Nagle.

You see, Arnold Palmer won 8 tournaments in 1960 two of which were The Masters and the US Open. He also won the World Cup (then known as the Canada Cup) while paired with Sam Snead. Palmer, however, lost the British Open to Kel Nagle. Nagle, who was 39 years old at the time had played in only two previous Opens (one in 1950 and the other in 55) so most thought that the 54-hole leader would likely fade during the final round. But, Nagle did not fade and fired a solid 71 which deprived Arnold Palmer, who finished second, of his 3rd major of the year which would have matched the highwater mark set by Hogan in 1953. All the more remarkable was that Nagle's 10 foot putt to save par on 17 was holed after he heard the sonic boom erupt from the 18th as Palmer holed his putt for birdie on the final hole. Nagle holed his ten footer to hold his 1-shot lead and then whipped his second shot on 18 at St. Andrews's to within 4 feet assuring him an easy two putt and an incredible victory. Nagle beat Palmer at the height of his popularity and power and quite likely the pinnacle of his career. Palmer won the next two Opens in succession.

It is no secret that I am a huge Ben Hogan fan, but in fact the golfer who I admire most is Peter Thomson. It was Thomson who called fellow Australian Nagle "Mr. Accuracy, the Ben Hogan of Australia" and there is no reason in the world not to accept Thomson's assessment of Nagle.

Kel Nagle's game was built on accuracy and precision and deadly putting. He won 61 times in Australasia, won the Canadian Open, the British Open and 15 other tournaments of note. Long overdue, Nagle was finally inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame in 2007.

You can visit his profile here: http://www.wgv.com/hof/member.php?member=1137